Diamond Coal & Coke Co. v. United States - 233 U.S. 236 (1914)
U.S. Supreme Court
Diamond Coal & Coke Co. v. United States, 233 U.S. 236 (1914)
Diamond Coal & Coke Company v. United States
Argued January 28, 29, 1914
Decided April 6, 1914
233 U.S. 236
A patent for mineral lands secured under a nonmineral land law by fraudulently and falsely representing them to be nonmineral, although not void or open to collateral attack, is voidable and may be annulled in a suit by the government against the patentee or a purchaser with notice of the fraud.
In a suit by the government to annul a patent, issued under a nonmineral land law, on the ground that the patent was fraudulently procured for lands known to be mineral, the burden of proof rests upon the government and must be sustained by that class of evidence which commands respect and that amount of it which produces conviction.
To justify the annulment of a patent issued under a nonmineral land law as wrongfully covering mineral lands, it must appear that, at the time of the proceedings in the Land Department resulting in the patent, the lands were known to be valuable for mineral, for no subsequent discovery of mineral can affect the patent.
In this case, the evidence shows with requisite certainty that, at the time of the proceedings in the Land Department resulting in the patents sought to be annulled, the lands were known to be valuable for coal and were sought for that reason.
Where an agent, at the instance and for the benefit of his principal, fraudulently secures patents under a nonmineral land law for lands
known to be valuable for minerals and then transfer the lands to his principal, the latter is not a bona fide purchaser, and the patents may be annulled in a suit by the government.
There is no fixed rule that land become valuable for coal only through its actual discovery within their boundaries. On the contrary, they may, and often do, become so through adjacent disclosures and other surrounding or external conditions, and when that question arises, any evidence logically relevant to the issue is admissible, due regard being had to the time to which it must relate. Colorado Coal & Iron Co. v. United States, 123 U. S. 307, distinguished.
191 F. 786 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the validity of certain patents for lands entered as nonmineral, but which were known to be chiefly valuable for mineral when entered, and the right of the government to have the same annulled as having been fraudulently obtained, are stated in the opinion.